Well, I am finally back and ready to share the sights, sounds, aromas, and experiences of my travels WAY SOUTH of the BORDER.
As I was whisked away south to the top of the Andes Mountains, I had a few concerns. Bogota, with its 9000 ft above sea level altitude, gives even the most "in shape"body an unexpected lung workout. I had visited there in 2000 and did have considerable difficulty breathing, so my concerns were justified. However, this time I was much thinner and in better shape, so I hoped/prayed it wouldn't be too much of an issue.
The first day was going to be a busy one. After arriving at the airport at 4am for a 7am flight, the Jet Blue departure check in was mobbed with people. The doors were locked. What happened? A potential bomb scare? I was already on "high alert" because of my concerns and flying. One would think, after traveling around the world with my former career, I wouldn't mind flying…. well, back then it wasn't an issue. Now …. Just jitters, nothing too major.
A fire inside had caused all this commotion. Oddly enough there were no fire trucks. I had my suspicions. The truth may have been concealed to keep the masses calm. No one freaks over a fire, but a bomb scare… you bet!
Anyway, checking in wasn't too bad. The lines moved quickly and after stripping through security, I made it through customs. It took about 90 minutes total. For those of you who travel internationally, you know that was a miracle in itself.
My buddy, informed me that his brother had invited us to a charming small village about 90 minutes south of Bogota for the weekend. A place called Boche. If any of you ever traveled on the roads in South America, let's just say they are like heaven in this country, even under the worst construction conditions.
Thankfully the flight was an overall good experience. We landed in Bogota, on time, in hazy 50 degree weather. I had met my friend's brother before on my first visit and he was as gracious as ever. We loaded the luggage into the car and off we went on a the treacherous roads of Bogota. Our first stop …. another brother's condo to repack for the weekend and then off to Boche.
A good thing my breakfast was well digested by this point. The pot hole ridden streets and the rolling hills (imagine more mountains on top of this hilly plateau. San Francisco is prairie land compared to this…)
Unbearable traffic bottlenecked everywhere. I learned that Bogota has TEN MILLION people and each citizen seems to have a car! Imagine they are only allowed to drive on odd or even days, depending on their license plates! And yet, the traffic was still bumper-to-bumper. What is even more distracting … NO LANES…. these drivers create their own, AND, add motorcyclists to the foray, squeezing in between! One really does appreciate our rules and pavement here in the states after THREE weeks of that.
After a few hours of unnerving traffic, we were on our way out of the city. Thankfully the altitude didn't seem to affect my breathing, but the car exhaust certainly did. AKKK!
Motoring through the Colombian countryside was a visual feast. Peddlers selling amazing fruits, arrepas (Colombian pancakes.. sort of), incredibly beautiful flowers, and all sorts of goodies which I could hardly make out. After about an hour we stopped for petrol. Now this was a shocker … full service … with a SMILE …. AND …. free COFFEE! Yup. The charming attendant handed each of us a steaming, aromatic, and unbelievably DELICIOUS cup of coffee. I was blown away.
Most of the small towns we traveled through were old, peeling, and congested. Stray dogs pranced through the narrow streets where the locals sat on their front stoops chatting with one another. It was like stepping back in time. No high rises, no chic business people, not trademark stores. Only an hour outside a major city, it seemed time stood still for decades.
We arrived at Boche. A charming haven of elegant terraced condo homes, dotting the mountainside. Here is where all the wealthier citizens of Bogota have their country homes. We entered the gates of a lushly landscaped pagoda. Bougainvillea draped, palm trees swayed in the cool, humid breeze, and roses of every color exploded to life. Was I still in South Florida? I couldn't believe my eyes. Tropical vegetation flourishing on the top of one of the tallest mountain ranges in the world? Amazing…
As a non-speaking Spanish guest, I was challenged. Although my friend's family did EVERYTHING in their power to make me feel comfortable, I felt like I was in a paralleled universe. They all spoke at once… non stop chatter. My friend did his best to keep me involved in the conversation, but it was just too overwhelming for him and for me.
I sat and observed. The casas were just what one would expect. Terraced, white washed villas with terra cotta tiled roofs. Sweeping oversized tiled terraces, overlooking the lush, green mountains. Stunning. Flowers bursting from terra-cotta pots added vibrancy and incredible beauty. Winter there is misty, cool, and damp… perfect for keeping the mountainside emerald. A sweater is a must. No heat in this country. So layering to keep warm is necessary. Thankfully the aromatic, hot coffee flowed. Truly the elixir of life.
Not soon after, the table groaned with sumptuous Colombian cuisine. My buddy is a gourmet chef. But for his family her went the traditional route. Red beans and rice, fried plantains, spiced ground beef, avocado(no guacamole, that's Mexican… LoL), amazing freshly baked pain, filled with local fruits. I wish I could describe the aromas wafting from the table. It was just incredible.
That evening we played LuLu… a very interesting Colombian card game for MONEY of course. I lost, but had fun.
I was looking forward to the next day for my hike around the town and mountains….
These pics will give you a good idea of just how beautiful nature at its purest can really be … I hope you enjoy them…
Yes, those are birds in the trees…. what a cacacophy of twittering….